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Trio's decision to drop out of hospital appeal welcome

October 12, 2006

We welcome the decision by three of the eight Washington County residents appealing a zoning variance needed for a new new hospital in the Robinwood area to end their challenge. We are glad that, as one of them said, they "have chosen to realize the reality, as it were."

The withdrawal was OK'd Friday by Circuit Judge W. Kennedy Boone III, who approved a motion to that effect sought by Ronald L. Horn, Gary C. Miller and J. Michael Nye.

The trio had opposed the move from the hospital's present location on the grounds that it would be too costly, and thus adversely affect local health-care costs.

Other concerns included the noise nearby residents and local schoolchildren of the new hospital would experience from emergency vehicles and helicopters.

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The three also believe that a new hospital in the already-busy Robinwood area will snarl traffic and require $40 million in road improvements to keep vehicles, including emergency transportation, moving safely in and out.

We share this last concern. What will happen if an ambulance has to travel to the hospital at the same time that students are heading to evening classes at Hagerstown Community College?

Here's why we're concerned: Last December, Gary Rohrer, the county's director of public works, called the Edgewood Drive/U.S. 40 intersection "critical" to the project.

At the time, Rohrer said he expected it would go to construction in the spring of 2007.

But in August, when Gov. Robert Ehrlich's office awarded $6 million toward improving that intersection, his press office said construction would begin in the spring of 2008 and be completed by 2010.

Ideally, the intersection and the hospital would both be done at the same time. And perhaps they can be, since the county has put this project on "fast track" status.

It would also be a good idea to take another look at creating a second access to the new hospital by bringing a road off Eastern Boulevard that would bridge Antietam Creek.

It won't be cheap, but the alternative for emergency vehicles coming from Md. 64 would be to either travel west to the city line and backtrack to the hospital or continue west to the already-overburdened Robinwood Drive.

We do not pretend to he highway engineers, but given the growth that this area has experienced, and will continue to experience, common sense dictates that the bridge idea should get a second look.

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